Norway Journal pt. 1

Edgeless days, us and the sky forward. Tonight we’ll belt mouthfuls of Jameson from a .5l plastic bladder that I refill at the wine monopoly government liquor stores in the bigger towns a week apart, but not if we’ve rolled through late. And the talk wanders, floats on thermals from our camaraderie. 

Mikkel loves these textures, his biology teacher erudition naming the birds and small persevering flowers. Sometimes he stops and laughs or calls out, points to movement in folds in the ground, his index finger tracing the streams in the air and we smile share his glee. Runar: we’d joked about the foresight of our preparation in bringing a doctor with us, but he rues that he’d only be handy if we happened to need a very specific kind of surgery—he holds the edge of one hand to his sternum and the other just below his bellybutton—”…between here and here, and only if we were in the O.R.” All of us with our love of science and the ambition to make sense of the natural world even if through incomplete explanations and predictive probabilities and all the fallibility, aiming for a harmonious isomorphism between being out in it and our stories about it.

The crossing into Norway was as invisible as we expected so I press the boys to talk about home and this landscape that I know is pride and gravity to them. They fill in the holes of my picture, the viking history, the transition to some of the world’s greatest prosperity, a self conception in the elements that makes for famous polar explorers, the Scandinavian cultural identity and relationship to Europe. R gives voice to his plan to ski the length of the country. M’s eyes glint, he’ll continue to explore it with his two adventurous young daughters.

This isn’t the full flight riding of a dirt road or well wheeled track. Fat bike mandatory country, grass squirming into the mud below or the spongy marsh surface.  I find laying on the ground a Norwegian flag buff scarred with a small tear and piling from last winter’s nordic ski adventure. I put it around my neck against the cutting wind.

Roll into Røros, the movement and sound of other’s voices snaps us out of the dream of low cadence bogs, into another. An historical mining town with the charm of a main street not very much different than it may have been three quarters of a century ago. A woman sits on the corner playing a cello; local kids on mountain bikes manual down the hill whooping, grinning; the storefronts are crafts and clothing, a bit of kitsch. This is a place for us to clean up and regroup, beers and ice cream, repairs. From it, we head out again, psychically perpendicular to it.

Left thinking about crowds and close spaces, density that in every literal sense is something else altogether but for me all the valences are the same. When I’m in New York City I point on purpose for the crowds, walking during the busiest time of the day and hoping for a subway ride where we all stand close and jostled by the clacking sway. There the noise is the silence and the social terrain is the horizon, beautiful like this one though maybe requiring different tools and technical clothing. Just like all those people: The slow mud, raw cold against my fingers, the press of the ground under me in the tent shifting on my camp mat, all embraces and inhaling pressures that keep me from falling infinitely down through an unimaginable structureless world.

Easier to say that we seek wild spaces for an escape, but what is less clear is what the escape is from. This place is crowded and full with so much.